"It Happens Every Day": Foreign Husbands In Thailand


Joseph Davis has a fairly depressing explanation for why he chose to move to Thailand to find a wife: “Thai women are a lot like women in America were 50 years ago.”

Davis is just one of the men profiled by Seth Mydans in a piece for the New York Times that centers upon a trend of foreign men moving to Thailand in order to settle down and marry local women—women, according to Davis—who, are unlike their American counterparts, as “[American] women now know they are equal, so the situation is not as relaxed and peaceful as it is between an American and a Thai lady.”

Davis and his wife live in Issan, a region of Thailand that Mydans notes “is one of the poorest parts of the country,” and an apparent hotbed for marriages between Thai women seeking economic stability and foreign husbands, who seem to be seeking companionship, and, judging by Davis’ statements, subservience. And Davis’ apparent desire to return to the America of 50 years ago seems to be a reality of sorts: a 2006 study by Kohn Kaen University, quoted by The Nation, noted that the Americanization of Issan had already started, with Western holidays and meals taking precedence over local celebrations and cuisines, undoubtedly a result of the influence of foreign husbands, who brought their customs, and their dietary habits, with them. In a way, he’s able to have America without all of that women’s liberation hullabaloo.

For her part, Davis’ wife, Nui, notes that she hoped to marry a foreign man and live “dream,” and another couple profiled in the piece, the Sorensens, who have a language barrier and 32 years between them, don’t sound unhappy as much as content with their arrangement, with much of their relationship seemingly centered around the fact that Dennis financially provides for his wife and her children, which brings her happiness. The Times also has a video accompanying the piece, which shows both couples in a slightly better light than the article seems to, with both wives smiling and looking genuinely happy about their relationships. Davis’ quote is expanded in the video—he notes that he’s “always been an equal rights supporter,” but that American men and women now can’t get along, due the fact that they’re “both strongheaded and opinionated.” It’s a somewhat confusing statement: Davis claims to believe in equal rights, but doesn’t seem to want to deal with, you know, the opinions and strength that come along with them.

While the video softens the piece a bit, it doesn’t shake the looming sense of economic power (or privilege, or cultural imperialism) that coats the piece, perhaps due to Davis’ quotes and the notion that men with enough money can essentially swoop in, pick a wife who won’t—heaven forbid—act as an equal, and change an entire region’s culture by effectively ignoring it in favor of his own. The argument, certainly, will be made that it’s nobody’s business why anyone gets married or enters into any contractual agreement, but when you have white males with financial stability proudly declaring that they’ve found away around the progress this country’s female population has made over the past half-century, one wonders if these marriages really are dreams come true for both parties involved.

Foreign Husbands Bring Big Changes To Issan [The Nation]
A Thai Region Where Husbands Are Imported [NYTimes]

Justin Mott/NYTimes.” />

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